SAALT hosts Congressional Briefing — 17 years after 9/11 ”Detentions, Deportations, Diminished Civil Rights”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 14, 2018
On September 13, South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) hosted a Capitol Hill Briefing in collaboration with the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC). Members of Congress and an expert panel of community leaders provided remarks marking the 17th anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11. This year’s anniversary fell at a time of rampant anti-immigrant and xenophobic policies aimed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab American communities. Members of Congress and community leaders discussed the intersection of hate violence, the Muslim Ban, and immigration enforcement. They also pointed to legislative and policy proposals to safeguard civil rights and protect immigrant communities.
As lead sponsor of H.R. 1566 NO HATE Act, Representative Don Beyer (VA-08) provided opening remarks emphasizing the relationship between hate violence and discriminatory and anti-immigrant policies advanced by the current administration. Representative Beyer reminded the audience that hate violence exists in every corner of our nation as he recounted recent incidents from his northern Virginia Congressional District.
Representative Grace Meng (NY-06) provided closing remarks commemorating the impact of 9/11 and the ensuing backlash against South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab American communities in New York City. She highlighted the story of Salman Hamdani, a young Muslim-American first responder on 9/11, whose name was left off the National September 11 Memorial in Manhattan.
“SAALT is committed to addressing the underlying factors that spur hate violence against our communities, including discriminatory policies and the growth in organized white supremacy. We are dedicated to working with Congressional leaders and our community partners to ensure the next decade sees a decline in hate violence,” stated Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of SAALT.

Honorary Co-hosts:
The Honorable Senator Jeffrey A. Merkley (OR)
Congressional Co-sponsors:
Representative Don Beyer (VA-08) – opening remarks
Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07)
Representative Ro Khanna (CA-17)
Representative Grace Meng (NY-06) – closing remarks
Representative Jan Schakowsky (IL-09)
Panelists:
Azza Altiraifi, Justice for Muslims Collective
Paromita Shah, National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild
Lakshmi Sridaran, South Asian Americans Leading Together

Quotes

Representative Don Beyer (VA-08): “I want to recognize SAALT’s crucial advocacy work – they have been instrumental in elevating South Asian American voices into conversations on the Hill. I am proud to have SAALT’s support on my bill, the NO HATE Act, which will help improve hate crime reporting.”
Representative Grace Meng (NY-06): “I’m proud of the tremendous work SAALT does on behalf of the South Asian community. We have a collective responsibility to ensure our communities are safe from violence, hate, and discrimination. I’m committed to ensuring that my constituents have the support and resources to keep our communities safe. I’m proud to partner with SAALT and am confident it will continue to play a pivotal role in keeping our communities safe.”
For a recorded stream of the Briefing, please click here.

17 Years After 9/11: Detentions, Deportations, Diminished Civil Rights

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 11, 2018

Today marks the 17-year anniversary of the tragic attacks of September 11, 2001. This anniversary falls at a time of rampant immigration enforcement and racial profiling policies directed at South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab American communities. Unsurprisingly, this escalation of brutal and discriminatory policies is accompanied by a rising tide of hate violence impacting our communities. Nearly two decades after the events of September 11th, hate violence targeting South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, and Arab American communities has now surpassed levels only seen immediately after that tragedy.

SAALT has already documented over 400 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric targeting our communities since the 2016 presidential election. Tragically, we can now draw a direct link between divisive political rhetoric and its role in spurring hate violence: one in five of the hate incidents documented in our 2018 report, Communities on Fire, involved perpetrators who verbally referenced President Trump, one of his administration’s policies, or one of his campaign slogans while committing an act of violence.

Since the events of September 11th, successive administrations have leveraged a ‘national security’ lens to advance anti-immigrant and xenophobic policies that target our communities and our place in this nation. This list of policies that seek to limit and exclude our rights includes but is not limited to the Patriot Act, the Countering Violent Extremism program, and the Muslim Ban. Several devastating policies aimed at immigrant communities have been unveiled in the last year alone. Examples include the decision to terminate Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for individuals from several countries including Nepal, Honduras, El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan; a wave of deportations of documented and undocumented residents; separating families and detaining children in cages; and denaturalizing American citizens. In short, we are in the midst of a campaign to create an America that is separate and unequal for the foreign-born and their families. The onslaught is slated to continue escalating through the administration’s plans to further criminalize immigrants for utilizing public benefits by issuing a ‘public charge’ rule and unconstitutionally including a question on citizenship status in the 2020 Census.

It appears this dangerous convergence of policies, rhetoric, and violence will not end soon. In April 2018, a Houston Muslim woman wearing a hijab was stabbed by an attacker yelling “Oh my God, it’s a r**head” “sand n******” and other racially derogatory terms. In July and August 2018, two California Sikh men wearing turbans were violently attacked in separate incidents. In one incident, the perpetrator yelled “Go back to your country!” SAALT continues to collect data on incidents of hate violence in our public, online database, and provides monthly updates on trends.

Later this week, SAALT will host a Congressional Briefing in collaboration with the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) to highlight the intersection between current incidents of hate violence, the Muslim Ban, and immigration enforcement. SAALT is committed to addressing the underlying factors that spur hate violence against our communities, including discriminatory policies and the growth in organized white supremacy. We are dedicated to ensuring the next decade sees a decline in hate violence and an effort to regain this nation’s core ideals of equality and justice.

DACA: One year of uncertainty, one year of fighting back

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 5, 2018

Today is the one-year anniversary of this administration’s unnecessary and destructive decision to expose over 800,000 DREAMers to deportation by ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This critical program, which continues to enjoy overwhelming support from the American public, has protected immigrant youth for over six years from being forced out of the only country they have ever known. The DACA program is an important lifeline for immigrant communities, including South Asians; there are at least 5,500 DACA recipients from India and Pakistan alone, and an additional estimated 17,000 individuals from India and 6,000 individuals from Pakistan who are eligible for DACA.

Continue reading

Young Leaders Institute 2018-2019

Meet the 2018-2019 YLI cohort!
“Building Community Defense”

The 2018-2019 Young Leaders Institute (YLI) theme was Community Defense, and projects will take on anti-immigrant policies and hate violence. Shared below are project descriptions from this year’s cohort.

Apoorva Handigol: My project will stem from my senior thesis research on how antiblackness and Black-Brown solidarity have manifested over generations of South Asian Americans in Chicago. I will start with organizing a collaborative event at my school focusing on narratives of pain and love among South Asian and Black Americans. After this, I will take the project to my community in the Bay Area and reframe this community need as one of support for a group of people who has gone through much the same as we have, plus other injustices we have the privilege to forget. I will translate what I learned from the event on campus and my research into addressing my South Asian community’s antiblackness, lack of awareness of our 150+ years of Black solidarity, and need to strengthen our community defense.

 

Farishtay Yamin: My proposal centers around creating a rapid response system to ICE activity and hate crimes using an app. I would like to use the existing member base and network present in Athens, GA to duplicate the model in Nashville, TN.

 

 

Hiba Ahmad: My project is to create a financial literacy program for prison inmates in aims to reduce recidivism rates around the United States, which is mainly caused by lack of attainable financial education and resources. US prisons
disproportionately target people of color, so the successful
implementation of this program will hopefully protect our communities of color against further unjust detainment, and arm them with the education necessary to combat the difficulty of reentering the workforce.

Mahi Senthikumar: I will explore the intersections of rights and religion through a series of public talks and YouTube videos. By creating interfaith forums to discuss
religion alongside activism, I hope to break down social barriers within our community and uncover shared values which compel us to stand together for justice.

 

 

Meghal Sheth: For my project I will be working to co-program with other cultural and identity- based groups on Washington University in St. Louis’ campus to create a “Justice Through Freedom” Week. The week will include a vigil, call-in, panel discussion on community defense, and a gala with other various student organizations.

 

Myra Khushbakht: For my project, I plan to create an open discussion town hall event at Howard in the coming academic year. I hope to initiate a conversation about colorism within minorities on my campus.

 

 

Naisa Rahman: My community defense project will focus on improving my university’s reporting and response system for bias, discrimination, and harassment. My goal is for our institution to respond timely to students and to better support them during any crises.

 

 

Sarah Rozario: Sarah hopes to create a video composed of her campus community’s immigrant and undocumented voices addressing anti-immigration policies. The project will provide a space for students to voice their concerns as well as act as a display of support.

 

 

Vrinda Trivedi: Coming from Ohio, I think suburban and rural locations are sorely overlooked in regards to being seen as spaces conducive to community building. Therefore, I would like to find a way to connect LGBTQIA+ South Asians, through hosting a retreat similar to YLI, but on a smaller scale, and geared towards addressing the unique themes faced by LGBTQIA+ South Asians in suburban and rural spaces.

 

Yasmine Jafery: My project is creating an on campus club that provides a safe space for peers to talk to one another about difficult things they are going through. This club would provide struggling students a place to meet and learn from their peers that are fighting similar obstacles.

 

 

Neha Valmiki: Neha will have a session on her campus called Breaking Barriers, where will bring in speakers to talk about mental health in the South Asian community and the
necessity for civic engagement. The goal is to break the stigma of mental health and to break the idea that your vote doesn’t count. Her goal is it make sure each students knows that they have a voice and they are valid.

 

Rupkatha Banarjee: Summits and conferences often attract large audiences and transmit messages of support and awareness throughout the community. In lieu of student involvement and increased participation, I aim to organize a TEDx type conference with multiple speakers to explicate stories of immigrants who’ve experienced targeted racial violence.

 

Jaspreet Kaur: Brown Girl Joy [an IG platform] explores the intersections of beauty one brown girl [including gender non conforming + nonbinary person] at a time. We hope to reconstruct paradigms of beauty to be more inclusive and accepting for people of color.

 

 

Sana Hamed: I propose to start SEMS (Sharing Every Muslims’ Story), an initiative that would serve to unite Muslim organizations on campus through the common thread of storytelling. The project would include various ways to put a positive spotlight on who Muslims are in America and would include creating short narrative videos to be shared through social media, written features for an anthology, and even a showcase featuring Muslim creatives through which we could further engage the community.

 

 

For more information around Young Leaders Institute, follow SAALT on Twitter at @SAALTweets, or contact Almas Haider at almas@saalt.org

2020 CENSUS

The Constitution mandates a counting of all persons in the U.S every 10 years. This count is regardless of legality of stay. For the first time in United States history, the 2020 Census could include a question around citizenship. If allowed to pass, it would endanger immigrant communities, leaving them exposed to violence, and hate.

The Census informs the allocation of $800 billion in federal funds, guiding spending on infrastructure, education, healthcare, and public benefits. The inclusion of a citizenship question will red flags communities of color, and might lead to increased surveillance and policing of immigrants, specifically South Asians who already find themselves at the cross hairs of hate and violence.

We have until August 7th to submit comments to the federal government. Follow these three steps to submit a comment:

STEP 1:
Follow this link for a sample comment letter SAALT and Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM) created you can use.

STEP 2:
Personalize your comment.

We need to show the diversity of voices in opposition to the citizenship question. You are encouraged to personalize your comment using the data we provided in our webinar. Some questions to consider in personalizing your comment:
  • How will an inaccurate count impact your local community and state?
  • Do you have specific programs or projects funded by the state or local government that are at risk of being under-funded?
  • How might this impact political representation in your communities?
  • How will your community demographic affect their response rate?
  • Many South Asian families live in mixed-status households, do they feel safe responding to a citizenship question?
STEP 3:

Submit your comment at: https://goo.gl/LL34xx

 2020 CENSUS RESOURCES
–          2020 Census Strategy Webinar
–          2020 Census Community Workshop Support Materials

 

The Fight Continues: No Muslim Ban Ever!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 26, 2018

Washington D.C– Over a year and three iterations at state-sponsored discrimination later, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled earlier today to uphold the Trump Administration’s divisive and damaging Muslim Ban. This is a troubling first in modern times for our nation: one that openly codifies inequality before the law.

In response, Suman Raghunathan, Executive Director of South Asian Americans Leading Together, said: “Greenlighting persecution of communities due to their appearance or how they pray is unacceptable and un-American, and cannot be the law of our land. Today’s decision joins our nation’s past shameful decisions on Korematsu and Dred Scott by upholding discrimination. With this ruling, the highest court has turned its back on our communities who are already on the front-lines of state-sanctioned hate, violence and division.”

“As we see immigrants portrayed and treated as subhuman, hate violence at historic levels, and challenges to due process and core rights for all, we face a critical question as to who we are and what we stand for as a nation. We know hate violence targeting our communities will continue to rise nationwide, amplified by today’s decision. SAALT chooses to build a nation where families are not torn apart, where children are not detained in cages, where differences are not criminalized for political gain. Today, as the government chooses to separate families and places our communities in the cross hairs of hate, we vow to continue the fight for justice, dignity, and full inclusion. Our communities have a place in this nation regardless of today’s decision, and we will fight to protect them.”

 

Our elected and appointed officials should know we will continue to mobilize our communities, and will not stop till we have equality and justice for all.

SAALT

YLI Reflections: Shifting South Asian Spaces with Sahana

At this moment in the history of South Asians in the United States, we cannot afford to be complicit. We must mobilize in solidarity with other marginalized communities. The recent detainment of immigrant rights activist leader Ravi Ragbir demonstrates that those who stand up against injustice in our communities are the first to be targeted by this violent, xenophobic, racist administration. We can be reminded by Ravi’s release of the power of our communities, and the ways in which we can use our bodies, minds, and privilege to resist oppressive regimes like the Trump Administration.

At the Young Leaders Institute (YLI), I learned about the resilience of South Asian and Muslim communities. For over a century, Muslim and Sikh communities in the United States, as well as in South Asia, have been surveilled and targeted by Islamophobic and anti-Sikh institutions. South Asian feminist facilitators like Dr. Maha Hilal, Darakshan Raja, and Noor Mir reminded me of the importance of intersectional work that centers the community’s most marginalized groups and interrogates all systems of power.

Despite what misleading data on Asian & Pacific Islanders in the United States suggest, South Asians are an incredibly diverse group of people with a multitude of positionalities. South Asians need not be homogenous to stand, work, and fight in solidarity with one another. Rather, we must do the labor of listening and understanding each others’ unique experiences and histories in order to be a true community.

For my YLI project, I focused my energies on building South Asian spaces on my college campus, the Claremont Colleges, dedicated intersectional South Asian activism. Four years ago, there was no space on campus for South Asians to explore questions of identity and positionality in meaningful ways. Because of the tireless efforts of a single South Asian student, Jincy Varughese, a one-person committee called Desi Table was created just three years ago. Since then, SAMP, a mentorship program for South Asian first-years and transfers has launched, and the Committee for South Asian Voices (formerly Desi Table) has put on several events, now with 10 devoted members. Genealogies like this one inspired me to continue pushing this work forward for my YLI project.

This year, the Committee for South Asian Voices has put on events to explore queer South Asian stories, the caste system and the Indian state, NGOization and gender in India, the Rohingya refugee crisis, Indo-Caribbean histories, processing South Asians in media, diasporic histories, and interpersonal violence in South Asian communities. Alongside the department for Feminist Gender Sexuality Studies at Scripps College, Equality Labs, and several other campus groups and departments, Professor Piya Chatterjee and I were able to bring Dalit rights activist Cynthia Stephen to campus. Cynthia’s visit was an incredible intervention to push all of us to think more deeply about Brahmanical patriarchy, Dalit-Black solidarities, and the constant resistance of Dalit people. Cynthia’s visit was part of her Dalit History Month tour, coordinated in partnership with Thenmozhi Soundararajan of Equality Labs. For our final two workshops of the year, we partnered with South Asian Network (SAN), an organization committed to providing crucial services for South Asians in Southern California, and to creating community spaces.

Inspired by the work of Jahajee Sisters, the Alliance of South Asians Taking Action, Desis Rising Up & Moving, and so many others, we are following in deep traditions of South Asian activism in the United States. Whenever I feel lost or wonder why I do this work, histories of South Asian resistance remind me that I am right where I belong, within and alongside community.

To learn more about Equality Labs, click here.
To learn more about South Asian Network, click here.
To learn more about ASATA, click here.
To learn more about DRUM, click here.

***
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT). South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) is a national, nonpartisan, non-profit organization that fights for racial justice and advocates for the civil rights of all South Asians in the United States. Our ultimate vision is dignity and full inclusion for all.

YLI 2018-2019 FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions | Young Leaders Institute 2018- 2019

What is SAALT?

South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) is a national, nonpartisan, non-profit organization that fights for racial justice and advocates for the civil rights of all South Asians in the United States. Our ultimate vision is dignity and full inclusion for all.

SAALT is the only national, staffed South Asian organization that advocates around issues affecting South Asian communities through a social justice framework. SAALT’s strategies include advocating for just and equitable public policies at the national and local level; strengthening grassroots South Asian organizations as catalysts for community change; and informing and influencing the national dialogue on trends impacting our communities. To learn more about SAALT, please visit www.saalt.org.

What is the Young Leaders Institute?

SAALT’s Young Leaders Institute is a unique opportunity for 15–20 young leaders in the US to explore issues that affect South Asian American communities; engage in peer exchange; hone leadership skills; and learn strategies and approaches to social change. The 2017–2018 Institute will be the sixth time this annual leadership development program will be hosted by SAALT.

Who can apply for the Young Leaders Institute?

U.S. undergraduate students and other young adults 17–22 years of age interested in creating change among South Asian Americans on their campuses or in their communities. SAALT welcomes applications from young leaders who are not enrolled in academic institutions. We also accept applicants from all types of academic institutions including universities, colleges, community colleges, vocational trainings, etc. Applications of young adults who are older and/or in graduate school will also be accepted and considered.

Why is the Young Leaders Institute important?

SAALT is committed to the leadership development and support of young adults as agents of progressive change among South Asians in the US. The Institute encourages participants to explore their current leadership qualities, challenge themselves to evolve their leadership skills, learn from fellow young leaders, and commit to advancing social justice in real ways on their campus and in their community.

What is the 2018–2019 theme?

The 2018-2019 Young Leaders Institute theme is “Community Defense.” Since our last election cycle, communities of color across the U.S. have experienced an increase in anti-immigrant and racial violence. Policies have been enacted that remove Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for over 300,000 individuals, including Nepal; end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program placing 800,000 young immigrants, including at least 23,000 Indian and Pakistani youth, in uncertain status; increased “silent raids” against immigrants; and ban immigration from several Muslim majority countries. The policies are fueled by as well as encourage violence against those most vulnerable to their impact, particularly South Asians.

As we enter the midterm election cycle, our communities are expected to experience a surge in anti-immigrant policies and hate violence. Those most vulnerable within the South Asian community include working class, undocumented, Muslim, Sikh, and caste oppressed groups. It is imperative to learn from our experiences of not just the past election cycle but the long standing history of racism and xenophobia in the U.S. We must create community defense systems through civic engagement that at the heart protect our community from harm and deportation from this country. It must anticipate needs as well as incorporate long term and short term offensive strategies.

The 2018-2019 cohort will identify strategies and craft projects to support those highly impacted at their academic institutions and/or local South Asian communities. We encourage projects that center and uplift undocumented, working class and poor, Muslim, Sikh, and caste oppressed groups. All projects should also incorporate a civic engagement and social media campaign component.

What is civic engagement?

The Institute theme folds in a critical civic engagement component. Civic engagement is defined for the current purposes by an interest and willingness by individuals, residents, and constituents to engage with decision-makers, stakeholders, and peers (appointed and elected, campus-based and external) as well as decision-making processes to make their voices, opinions, and priorities heard. Civic engagement is not limited to or predicated upon activities or efforts that involve voting or the voting process, or U.S. citizens (who are generally, apart from some exceptions, the only individuals who can vote in the U.S.). At its essence, civic engagement is defined as individuals who choose to organize themselves and others toward collective action to weigh in, engage, and voice their opinions on how to address pressing issues that need to be improved, replicated, or addressed in their community.

For the purposes of campus-based projects around addressing and building community defense systems in South Asian and campus communities, civic engagement can involve a variety of actions. Please note, the following are examples only. Applicants are encouraged to submit their own innovative and creative project ideas, including but not limited to projects that promote civic engagement through art!

  • Organizing students to partner with local community-based organizations on problematic local, state, or national policies criminalizing immigrants and people who are undocumented.
  • Building coalition with student organizations of color to establish an Equity Advisor position in student government that works with the administration to create and implement equitable policies and practices on campus.
  • Raising concerns with the campus administration and shifting institutional practices and campus police compliance with policies that disproportionately target immigrants and people who are undocumented.
  • Train student organizations to support immigrant and undocumented peers in crisis and build campus coalitions to support institutional culture change.
  • Organizing a speak-out for students to voice how they see anti-immigrant and xenophobic practices & sentiment manifest on their campuses and in the actions of administrators.
  • Organizing letter-writing or postcard campaigns in support of incarcerated immigrants, particularly those detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
  • Hosting forums/ town halls for campus community members to share their experiences of academic institution policies that are anti-immigrant and discuss how to advocate for change.
  • Advocate for and establish a support center for immigrant and undocumented students.
  • Supporting local organizing efforts to institute legislation that advances immigrant justice such as hate-free zones, anti-racist training for law enforcement, and prohibitions on racial profiling. A strong example from within our NCSO is DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving) supporting the creation of Hate Free Zones, building relationships between individuals, organizations, and businesses to “defend communities from workplace raids, deportations, mass criminalization, violence, and systemic violation of [their] rights and dignity.”
  • Create a campus wide artistic display that addresses an anti-immigrant policy specific to your institution.

Note: Competitive applications will reflect detailed project proposals that include identifying campus or community groups that work with South Asian and/or other marginalized immigrant populations and develop a strategy for a civic engagement project in collaboration with that group.

How does the Institute work?

The Young Leaders Institute requires full participation in the following commitments:

  • On-site 3-day intensive training in the Washington, DC metro area on July 25–27, 2018
  • Creation of a project addressing community defense through civic engagement on your campus or in your community that meet specific education/awareness and social change objectives
  • Completion of campus or community projects by April 30, 2019
  • Monthly group report-back, peer exchange, and support calls (August–November; February–April)
  • Completion of written report-back, program evaluation, and additional requested materials

What is your graduation policy?

Participants must be able to commit to and fulfill all above requirements in order to graduate from the Institute. Participants who complete all requirements will be considered 2018–2019 Young Leaders Institute Fellows and have the opportunity to further engage with SAALT’s work.

SAALT recognizes that many young leaders have work, family, and other important obligations that may be connected to income, health, and so forth. SAALT is committed to working with each young leader accepted into the program to support their fulfillment of commitments or to work together on alternatives in the event of extenuating circumstances.

Why do I want to be a 2018–2019 Young Leaders Institute Fellow?

Participants will develop leadership skills; understand key issues affecting South Asian American communities in a social change context; and connect their campus and community with South Asian organizations and leaders. A few examples of the work of fellows after graduating from the Institute:

  • Served as an AmeriCorps Public Allies program at the Florida Immigrant Coalition
  • Served as a summer intern at SAALT and various South Asian organizations
  • Organized campus workers to fight for living wages
  • Organized a multi-lingual health resource fair for  immigrant community members
  • Hosted an arts showcase uplifting immigrant narratives
  • Completed an anthology highlighting the experiences of queer Desis in the US

How does the Institute support diversity?

The 2018 Institute encourages applicants diverse in ethnicity, country of origin, immigration status, socioeconomic status, caste, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, and religion.

How much does this cost? What does SAALT provide?

SAALT will provide the following to accepted candidates:

  • Round trip air, train, or bus fare to the July 25-27 on-site training. Mode of transportation will depend on your departure point and will be chosen by SAALT (round-trip fare is restricted to traveling from a city to DC and returning to the same city).
  • Hotel accommodation (shared room) for the nights of July 25, 26, and 27
  • On-site training from July 25-27
  • Breakfast, lunch, and dinner on July 25 and 26; breakfast and lunch on July 27
  • Monthly group calls for report backs, peer exchange, and support
  • All other expenses, such as public transportation and taxi fares, additional meals or activities, and extended hotel stay are the participant’s responsibility

How do I apply? What is the application deadline?

Interested applicants should review information about SAALT, the Institute, and complete an application.

All applications should:

  • Record responses directly into the Word document application
  • Be submitted as one PDF document
  • Saved as “Name of Applicant_2018YLIApplication”

Submit completed applications to Almas Haider at almas@saalt.org by May 29th, 2018.

Only final candidates will be contacted directly. If you have any questions regarding YLI or your application before May 25th, 2018, contact almas@saalt.org or 301.270.1855.

What does a competitive application look like?

A competitive application will demonstrate:

  • An interest in effecting progressive change on a college campus or community.
  • Reflect a commitment to building community defense systems through civic engagement in the South Asian American and ally community.
  • Include ideas about realistic, scaled projects to enact this change and have the initiative, commitment, and resourcefulness to implement those ideas.
  • Include a social media campaign and/or component in their project plan.
  • A willingness to share experiences and learning from trainers and peers.
  • Seek to connect their projects with a member organization of the National Coalition of South Asian Organizations (NCSO) wherever possible. SAALT does realize that because capacity and South Asian populations vary greatly across the country, an NCSO organization may not be in or near an applicant’s city of residence and will take this into account.

Application for the 2018-19 Young Leaders Institute is now closed. Check back for more updates soon.

YLI Reflections: Combating Islamophobia with Rupa Palanki

My high school history teacher, quoting Mark Twain, often said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” For centuries in the United States, minority groups, ranging from Eastern European immigrants to Japanese Americans, have faced discrimination from more established populations due to a sense of “otherness” that they are invariably perceived to disseminate. This has resulted in dark chapters of history in a nation that prides itself as “the home of the free and the brave.” The recent rise in hatred against Muslims is just another iteration of the same story.

With the 9/11 attacks happening only three years after I was born, life, as I know it, has included a constant undercurrent of backlash in the United States against Muslims. At present, the current administration continues to relentlessly engage in anti-Muslim rhetoric and news headlines continue to blame Islam for select acts of violence perpetuating false, negative perceptions of the Muslim community. At school and in my city, I have personally witnessed how lack of a nuanced understanding breeds bigotry and discrimination. Many people in my hometown in Alabama have never left the state or interacted with Muslims before, and their bias towards Muslims stems from stereotypes that have been perpetrated over generations. And often at college, I am the first South Asian American that my peers have conversed with for an extended period of time, leading them to ask questions about my culture, religion, and language or mistakenly identifying me as Muslim instead of Hindu.

Because of this personal exposure to islamophobia, I developed a desire to better understand the phenomenon and to equip myself to combat it within my community. This, in part, was what motivated me to apply for SAALT’s Young Leaders’ Institute last summer. During the training in Washington D.C., I developed the organizational and leadership tools necessary to carry out effective change. Speakers like Noor Mir and Deepa Iyer shared fascinating insights on different aspects of islamophobia that reinforced the importance of understanding it in the context of institutionalized racism like anti-blackness and colonialism, as well as provided meaningful insights on the resilience and solidarity necessary to work in the social justice field. I appreciated the opportunity to meet activists and student leaders from other colleges and the opportunity to discuss the specificity of our experiences as South Asian Americans. I had never really had the opportunity to explore my identity as a South Asian American so extensively before.

This propelled me to begin to shape my own project that I carried out over the course of the academic year to work against biases within my college community. This spring, I worked in conjunction with other South Asia Society members at the University of Pennsylvania to plan a Symposium for Awareness of South Asian Issues (SASAI), a week-long intercollegiate conference to create awareness for social justice issues and to encourage activism in its many facets. The week’s events included a keynote address from 2014 Miss America Nina Davuluri, a fundraiser for a nonprofit organization fighting malnutrition in South Asia, and a series of discussions covering social issues like islamophobia. With a mix of both fun cultural programming and deep political conversations, SASAI encouraged participation not only from a diverse range of South Asians but throughout the minority community at Penn. By the end of the week, we found it inspiring to see that our efforts to make our campus a more inclusive space for all were rewarded.

Photos from the awareness symposium Rupa helped organize in the University of Pennsylvania.

As the incredibly passionate, intelligent, and socially conscious individuals that made up my Young Leaders’ Institute cohort carry out their projects over the course of this year, I hope to see visible change within the communities that they target, just as I hope that my actions have spurred. However, our work cannot be done alone. As President Obama notably wrote in his final message to the American people as Commander in Chief, “America is not the project of any one person. The single most powerful word in our democracy is the word ‘We.’ ‘We the People.’ ‘We shall overcome.’” Together, we must push forward the fight against islamophobia, for this is not a matter of one culture or religion or language or social class; it is a struggle for achieving equality for all people.

***

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT). South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT) is a national, nonpartisan, non-profit organization that fights for racial justice and advocates for the civil rights of all South Asians in the United States. Our ultimate vision is dignity and full inclusion for all.

 

 

 

This Week in Hate: hate continues to rise, our communities continue to suffer

 

Earlier this year, SAALT released our post-election analysis of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric called “Communities on Fire.” During the first year following the 2016 presidential election (November 7, 2016 to November 7, 2017)—we documented 302 incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric aimed at our communities, an over 45% increase from our previous analysis in just one year. An astounding eighty-two percent of incidents were motivated by anti-Muslim sentiment. Additionally, One out of every five perpetrators of hate violence incidents referenced President Trump, a Trump administration policy (“Muslim Ban”), or Trump campaign slogn (“Make America Great Again”) while committing the attack.

Since November 7, 2017, which marked one year since the presidential election, SAALT has documented 40 additional incidents of hate violence and xenophobic political rhetoric. Three of the eight instances of xenophobic political rhetoric were anti-Muslim videos retweeted by President Trump in a single day.[1]

Fourteen of the thirty-two incidents of hate violence were verbal/written assaults, followed by twelve incidents of property damage, and six physical assaults. The cumulative post-election total is shown in Figure 1 below compared to the year leading up to the presidential election.

Emerging Trends

Property Damage

On December 1, 2017, Bernardino Bolatete was arrested for planning to “shoot up” the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida.[2] He told an undercover detective, “I just want to give these freaking people a taste of their own medicine, you know? They are the ones who are always doing these shootings, the killings.” Following this event, four more mosques were vandalized around the country. Mosques in Upper Darby, PA[3]; Clovis, NM[4], and Queens, NY[5] were vandalized with “Trump”, “Terr-” “911” and other anti-muslim phrases.

In tune with the disturbing trend of Mosque vandalism, Tahnee Gonzales and Elizabeth Dauenhauer trespassed the Islamic Community Center of Tempe, Arizona. While on Facebook lives, the women stole the masjid’s educational material and called Muslims “devil-worshippers” who are destroying “America.” The women also encouraged their children to participate in anti-Muslim behavior.

Continued Targeting of Sikh Americans

Twenty-two percent of hate incidents we documented in “Communites on Fire” targeted men who identify or are perceived as South Asian, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Middle Eastern, or Arab. Perpetrators of hate crimes often use the religious presentation of turban-wearing Sikh men to target them. Our report found over seven incidents of hate violence aimed directly against Sikhs Americans, which reflected a significant disconnect between SAALT’s community-reported and publicly-sourced data and data reported to the FBI.

In January 2018, at least three incidents of hate violence targeted Sikh men. In Bellevue, Washington, an unknown perpetrator took a hammer from his bag and swung it against the head of Swarn Singh, causing his head to bleed.[6] At the AM/PM convenience store in Federal Way, Washington, a man threatened to kill a Sikh employee and told him to “go back where you came from.”[7] Later in the month, a Sikh Uber driver, Gurjeet Singh, picked up a couple in Moline, Illinois.[8] The male suspect put a gun to Singh’s head saying that he hated “turban people.”

Additionally, on March 3, 2018 Chad Horsely plowed his pickup truck into Best Stop Convenience Store because he thought the store owners were Muslim; they were Sikh Americans.[9]  On February 20, 2018, a Sikh gas station owner was called a “terrorist” and told that he should “go back to his own country.” When the victim tried to take photos of the vehicle license plate, Steven Laverty exited the vehicle and tried to punch the victim and took his phone.[10] On February 1, 2018, Pit Stop Gas Station in Kentucky, owned by a Sikh American, was found vandalized with swastikas, “white power,” “leave,” and “f**k you,” spray-painted on its exterior.[11]

While we recognize that many instances of hate violence or xenophobic rhetoric against our communities go unreported, we at SAALT remain committed in refusing to normalize hate. Download our report “Communites on Fire”, to read more about our recommendations on how to combat hate violence and address the underlying systems and structures that produce this violence.

[1] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/donald-trump-britain-first-retweet-muslim-migrants-jayda-fransen-deputy-leader-a8082001.html

[2] https://www.actionnewsjax.com/news/local/jacksonville-officers-man-planned-mass-shooting-at-islamic-center/658434170

[3] http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2017/11/30/upper-darby-anti-muslim-signs/

[4] http://www.krqe.com/news/new-mexico-mosque-vandalized-by-a-real-christain/1009337281

[5] http://www.qchron.com/editions/queenswide/vandal-scrawls-graffiti-at-mosque-site/article_bd1eaf88-a7d6-5006-9244-a1175c21b3fe.html

[6] http://www.king5.com/article/news/crime/sikh-community-facing-rise-in-hate-crimes-seeks-help-from-cities/281-509640203

[7] http://www.king5.com/article/news/crime/sikh-community-facing-rise-in-hate-crimes-seeks-help-from-cities/281-509640203

[8] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2018/03/07/an-ex-deputy-rammed-a-truck-into-a-store-because-he-thought-the-owners-were-muslim-police-say/?utm_term=.96c4bbd6f212

[9] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2018/03/07/an-ex-deputy-rammed-a-truck-into-a-store-because-he-thought-the-owners-were-muslim-police-say/?utm_term=.96c4bbd6f212

[10] http://www.newsindiatimes.com/sikh-gas-station-owner-in-new-jersey-becomes-victim-of-hate-crime

[11] http://www.indiawest.com/news/global_indian/indian-american-owned-gas-station-in-kentucky-vandalized-with-racist/article_ce755584-0b0b-11e8-949b-d30fdeef3b05.html